Alicia's pushed herself past the edge just to finish delivering those words to me.
Her hand dropped from my face.
In a panic, I checked her breathing and her pulse, but they didn't stop. She was just sleeping.
I sighed in relief, but I couldn't relax.
Her last words were driven home.
She wanted to become a part of me, to support me in however small way she could. She no longer had the ability to do so at my side, so she came up with this alternative.
I hated it. I hated it so much, but I couldn't deny it.
Alicia really was a good girl.
Much better than me.
I understood the logic of her words, and under normal circumstances, it was the pretty ideal, even if it was a bit cruel.
No, it was very cruel. But it didn't stop being the most optimal solution.
But that was, only if circumstances were normal.
Maybe, just maybe, I could figure out some other solution. I had powers that didn't normally exist in this world. My administrative privileges were something that weren't supposed to exist in the hands of a normal person as best as I could tell.
I immediately used [Scan] once again on Alicia and confirmed the two links I had discovered before. Her [Memory] and [Core]. If I could somehow extract those two things, then maybe, just maybe, even after her body wasn't able to support her anymore, I could preserve these two bits, then someday I could restore her life. Maybe even make a new body and insert these core elements of her into it so she could live once more.
The clues I had were extremely limited though. This method of saving someone was obviously something wasn't supposed to exist within the system. I had never seen any skills that even hinted at it's possibility. Or rather, not one that was supposed to be used in even the most remotely similar way.
I already had a single skill that actually fulfilled a similar effect: [Blood Suck].
Looking into the source code again, it was an incredibly complex skill, beyond any other which I had.
Even the basic outline was complex. Draw, separate, store, filter, and integrate.
The first step was to draw the blood from the target's body. This was obviously the sucking part of the skill. While it was obvious, even that was actually very complex. Drawing didn't just draw the target's blood, but it's data. It directly accessed the database and drew on the data of the target. It was frankly a terrifying discovery.
Next, separate was to divide the blood into two streams. The first was the physical part, which was used to nourish my body. The second was to extract the essence out of the blood. This step did nothing if the target didn't have blood in the first place. The third was to temporarily store the essence in a container to be processed. The skill itself had it's own sub-container that worked to store the essence to prevent overloading the next step.
Filter was literally filtering out the unwanted bits of the essence. This was separating anything that the skill wouldn't use, but was an integral part of an essence. Basically it stripped out and discarded anything that wasn't pure mana, XP material, or skill components. The final step was integration. Mana was integrated to fill my MP, XP materials to give me XP towards levelling up, and skill components to learn and rank up my skills.
If I stopped the skill at the third step, then maybe, just maybe, I could preserve Alicia's soul. If I had that, then I could take my time to save her.
If that works.
Will it work?
I didn't know, but it was better than facing certain death. Unlike amateur hour in the surgery ward, I'd say that this had a much higher chance of working, and it shouldn't be too painful either.
This was it. There was no hope other than this. I couldn't save Alicia's body, but if I could save her soul, then she had a chance.
Without any time to lose, I quickly opened up the skill list and made a copy of [Blood Sucking], then removed all the unnecessary parts. The new version would draw out everything with the target's blood, separate the blood from the mana and personal data, then store that mana and data into a container. I removed all parts of the skill that would do any sort of processing to the data itself and instead added code to ensure the preservation of the stored data and to prevent any leakage.
I renamed the skill to [Soul Siphon] and removed the description and acquisition method.
After a bit of back and forth, I managed to save the skill with only the missing acquisition method and description warnings, then swapped my skill [Breeding (Orc)] with it.
There were no obvious problems with the skill, but I needed to test it. The ramification of making a mistake would likely crush me.
I gently moved Alicia off of me so I could get up.
A dissatisfied expression rose up on her face as she weakly groped around in her sleep. I put the bunny plush bag into her her hand. The little sleeping girl quickly pulled the doll to her chest and her expression softened a bit.
I tucked her in under the blanket properly before heading outside. The exact nature of what the monsters in the dungeon were was still a mystery. Whether they were really alive or not wasn't something I knew for sure. As long as I didn't know, they wouldn't be good test subjects.
The moment I took a step into the blinding light of the daytime sun, my view was quickly blocked by a massive swarm of glowing balls of fluff.
"Wha, wha?! You guys!"
It must've been because it's been quite a few days since I last came out of the dungeon. The little fluffballs must've been worried.
"Hey, you guys. It's been a while"
I activated [Spirit Form] and they took turns to rub my body like a swarm of cats. Their joy and happiness clearly transmitted to me and helped lift my spirits a bit.
But after a little while, they backed off. In place of pure joy, there was something darker. At least, that's what it felt like.
"She...she's not doing well"
I fell to my knees. I couldn't stop the tears from dropping.
The little spirits lowered themselves and rubbed themselves against my body gently. My sides, my back, the top of my head.
"Thanks. I've got an idea. It might not...save her in the conventional sense...but I'm hoping that we won't lose her at least"
But I hoped that it wasn't a devil's bargain either. If things didn't work how I hoped, then I might be condemning Alicia to something worse than death.
"It's going to take a bit more time. Try to be patient for a bit longer everyone"
The fluffballs swirled around like a vortex, rising up and up as one, until they reached the apex and separated. It was like fireworks.
"I...I'll definitely save her. I promise that. And I'll give you guys the chance to show that to her as well!"
I rubbed my face with my sleeve and gave the little spirits a big, toothy grin before running off to find a target to test my new skill on.
"I'll be back! I promise! Just wait a bit!"
As I started to run, I threw a whole bunch of mana treats into the air before turning forward again.
Quickly past tree after tree, I held the rim of my hood to avoid it from being blown back. Soon, my [Sense Presence] skill detected a group of three. They were small and huddled together. Most likely goblins. The perfect target.
Without taking the time to slow down, I leapt into the air and gave a flying kick to two of them. The two goblins' heads exploded on impact, splattering me with blood, but I ignored it. I only did it because they'd get in the way, and no other reason.
Cockroaches get no rights.
The third goblin stood there stunned, and did nothing as I quickly approached it and bit it in the neck. But against all my instincts, instead of simply sucking out it's blood and letting my body do the rest of the work, I deliberately activated my new skill [Soul Siphon], and let it do the work of drawing in the goblin's blood.
The blood tasted foul, like dirty water. I was amazed how I used to crave such things when I first arrived in this world. It must really be a sign as to how much my tastes have refined since then.
As I sucked the monster's blood, I activated [Scan] and had a look. The results the skill gave me was quite a bit different from what I was used to. There wasn't as much information as for Alicia or myself, which entire parts missing.
I checked the [Memory] and [Core]. They were just as I had expected, but the files were even smaller than Alicia's. Maybe this goblin was even younger than her? Ah, I found the age. This one's only 1.8 years old. It's even younger than me.
I continued to suck it's blood, but suddenly I started to get a plethora of warnings. They read that the essence tank was at maximum capacity.
Immediately, I stopped sucking and let the goblin drop. Clearing out the warnings, I opened up the source code for my skill. In it, I found the container file for essence storage and opened it up. Inside, I could see the goblin's data, but parts of it were missing. I even found the [Memory] and [Core] links, but the file inside of [Memory] was much smaller than the one I looked at on the goblin itself and the [Core] file was entirely empty.
My eyes went to the crumpled green body. It was twitching, but otherwise lay still. It seemed to still be alive, but it's consciousness wasn't present. Or at least, it wasn't capable of coherent movement.
With a quick use of [Scan], I saw how most of it's data was now missing. [Memory] was almost entirely empty, but more importantly the [Core] file was still present in it's entirety.
My attention returned to the source code for [Soul Siphon] and checked to see what had happened. The warning stated that the essence tank was full, and when I checked it, it really was. The tank was at maximum capacity. Of course it wouldn't be able to fit any more data.
I was instantly relieved that I had tested this out on a goblin first. If I had used it on Alicia without first confirming it worked, it could've done irreparable damage to her.
Since the data wouldn't fit into the container file, all I had to do was increase it's size.
Changing the size of an existing skill wasn't possible, but it was easy to just make a new skill with a larger size, and that's what I did. I created a blank skill with the greatest size I could, then copied over [Soul Siphon]'s code and files to the new skill and increased the size of the container file to it's limit. It easily became over twenty times larger.
Finally, I changed the ID tag on my local skill to the new one I had just made, and in a second the new master skill overwrote my local skill. Fortunately, the data on the goblin was also transferred, so I could continue my experiment.
I grabbed the green monster and sucked out the last drop of it's blood using my new skill.
No new warnings appeared, and when I used [Scan] on it, nothing showed up. Just a blank window with no data.
The empty green husk fell limply to the ground as I let go of it and checked my own data. Inside of the skill, the container file was filled to 15% capacity, and all the data of the goblin was present, including the [Memory] and [Core] files.
I had succeeded without issue.
Since I had confirmed that, I altered the master file to purge the essence tank, and my skill automatically did so. Once I confirmed that it was empty, I changed the skill back, and started to go around testing the skill further. A single goblin was hardly anything more than a basic test. I needed more samples before I was sure that it was safe for Alicia.
In the end, I returned after using the skill on another twelve monsters. Ten goblins and two large rabbits. I even tested the capacity and it had no problems holding six goblins at the same time before I purged the data.
I was as confident as I could be that this would work.
In a flash, I rushed back to Alicia, giving a short greeting and apology to the little spirits as I passed by them.
Thankfully, she hadn't woken up while I was out, so I carefully slipped back into bed and lay her on top of my body.
Despite my best efforts though, Alicia's expression did end up changing as she slept. Even while asleep, a smile sprouted on her lips when she got back into her usual position, resting on my oversized breast like a pillow.
Everything had been prepared, to the best of my ability.
I had no ideas better than this one, but it was the only one that would buy me the time to figure out a way to let Alicia survive this. Maybe there were skills I hadn't found yet through the master database. There were so many and a lot of them had incomprehensible names. But betting on an unknown like that was too risky. For now, I had a solid chance.
But there was still one thing left I needed to do.
Until I could do that, I returned to scanning through the skill list on the off chance that I get lucky and find a proper solution to our problem.
Alicia quietly stirred as I was in the middle of stroking her hair.
The little girl rubbed her eyes and yawned before going into a coughing fit. In a panic, I sat up and held her close to me as I rubbed her back.
Eventually she calmed down, entrusting the weight of her body to me.
The little girl's arms snaked around me and did their best to held her even closer to me as their feeble strength could manage.
I stiffened at her words.
I hated it. I hated it so much. But I didn't want to deny her. And on top of that, my new invention was most likely her best chance at surviving. But if it didn't work, we would lose whatever time we had left together. But if I waited until the last second, then I might lose my chance.
I wanted to savour every last bit of time we had together before I executed my plan. But doing so risked losing everything. More than me, Alicia understood that.
And so, I hated it.
The strength in her arms increased ever so slightly, but it was likely the most she was now capable of.
My words caught in my throat. Tears streamed down my cheeks again.
Alicia's upturned eyes pierced right through me.
I was supposed to be the older one. I was supposed to be the one with a big body and a high level. But why was it that it was her eyes that looked so strong? Her eyes that couldn't see a thing only a year ago, and even now light failed to penetrate.
I took a deep breath.
"I...I have a special power. One that nobody else in the world has, most likely"
As I started my speech, the frail girl in my arms simply stared into my eyes. I felt like I was about to be swallowed whole by those big eyes.
"One of the things I can do with it is...to make new skills. Ones that never existed before"
I grit my teeth as regret filled me. If only I could better use this power. The authority I stole when I reincarnated. If I was a better person, a stronger person, a smarter person, I could've fixed Alicia. I could've prevented her from suffering in the first place.
"But, I'm not that good at using this power, so I can't save you"
I couldn't do it. This was my limit.
"Instead, I came up with an idea. I found a way to take you inside of my body and let you sleep until I figure out a way to properly save you. Do you..."
My words got stuck in my throat.
(What if she refused?)
"Do you...want to try it?"
"I can...sleep inside of...you...and wake up...if you..."
"When! When I figure out a way to properly save you!"
"Scarlet. Only bad girls...make promises...they can't...keep"
I wanted to refute her. I wanted to say I would definitely do it. But there were no assurances. No guarantees. As far as I knew, it was completely unprecedented. I didn't even know if it was possible. Not without the tools that I found in the white rooms back when I died.
But I understood. My words weren't a reassurance for Alicia. They were for me. I couldn't face the possibility that this wouldn't work.
I clenched my teeth as rivers of tears flowed from my eyes.
"If that's...what you...came up with...I'll do it...I trust you...Scarlet"
Finally, the last barrier to enacting my plan had eroded away. Nothing stopped me from using my new skill on Alicia anymore.
But I hesitated. In a sense, Alicia would die when I used the skill. I may preserve what made her her, but in return, her body would become an empty husk. Not only that, but I'd have no way to talk to Alicia. No way to hear her voice. No way to see her smile.
It wasn't true death, but it was very close. And it would come at my own hands.
Alicia entered the worst coughing fit I had seen. All I could do was keep holding her close as I rubbed her back.
Her time was getting close.
I could feel it in my heart as well that if I waited much longer, then I'd lose my only chance.
With all the willpower I could muster, I pushed back the tears that kept overflowing, and gently lay Alicia on to her back beside me. Then I straddled over her body.
My eyes went to the carotid artery in her neck. I didn't want to eat her.
(To think I'd return to my first thought of her)
"Umm...I just remembered"
"How did you figure out what I was?"
Alicia's eyes looked at me with surprise.
Of course they did. What a weird question to ask at the moment of truth.
But despite all that, a weak, stick-like arm reached out and touched my ear.
It was related to my ear? How?
"They say...vampires have...eyes like the...red moon...and skin that...has never known...the sun..."
(Well, that does describe me, but how could a blind child figure it out with that?)
"And ears...sharp like elves..."
"And your breath...always smelt...like blood"
(So that was the real reason)
To have though it was as simple as that. She figured it out with only two simple clues. It might not be enough for others, but it was for her.
Alicia smiled like a little prankster.
"Well...happy dreams Alicia. I promise I'll do my best to wake you up"
"It'll definitely...be happy. Because...I'll always...be with...you...Scarlet"
My lower lip quivered as she gave me a gentle smile.
I steeled myself and bit into the little girl's neck while activating [Soul Siphon] at the same time.
The skill drew in Alicia's blood through my fangs. I could feel her enter my body.
I repeated activated [Scan] as I watched the progress. Little by little, her data disappeared from her body as I was filled by her entire being.
As I sucked her blood, Alicia's body stiffened, her teeth clenched in obvious pain. But as much as I wanted to stop, if I did, then I risked causing irreparable damage.
Tears freely flowed down my cheeks, and I closed my eyes. I couldn't bear to watch the pain I was inflicting on Alicia.
But something soft and warm touched my cheek.
When I opened my eyes, I saw Alicia looking directly at me.
My hand reached for my cheek, and my fingers brushed even smaller fingers.
Alicia was in pain which I couldn't even imagine, she could hardly even breath, yet, she gave me a small smile as her hand gently stroked my cheek.
It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair at all. Why did she have to suffer through all of this?
Why did a useless person like me get a second chance when such a strong, courageous child like her not even get her first?
Why was the world so cruel? Why was it so unreasonable?
But still, she continued to smile.
She smiled, for my sake.
She smiled, so that I wouldn't break.
She smiled, so I'd continue to be a good girl.
Even as the light in her eyes faded, Alicia smiled.